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On Saturday afternoon, a United Airlines flight was forced to land after one of the Boeing 777’s Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines exploded after takeoff from Denver International Airport. 

Debris from the engine showered over a neighborhood below, complicating efforts by regulators and investigators to retrieve pieces for investigation. The flight returned safely to the airport whilst photos and videos of falling debris went viral on social media.      

BREAKING: Explosion in plane over Denver, giant metal falls from sky in Broomfield in a yard from this aircraft pic.twitter.com/J60Np0wEfG

— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) February 20, 2021

Breaking: Video shows the moments debris from #UA328, a Boeing 777, started falling from the sky over Broomfield, Colorado. The plane landed safely at Denver International Airport. pic.twitter.com/hIWk0vuxF2

— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) February 20, 2021

America’s flight regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), called for emergency inspections of the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines like the one on the United flight. An email from the FAA indicated that a hollow fan blade was the source of the engine failure. The incident echoes of a 2018 engine failure on another United Boeing 777. The flight, which was inbound to Honolulu from San Francisco, had its engine’s cover blown off by a faulty fan blade.

United, the only U.S-based airline that flies the 777, announced they’d ground all 24 of their fleet’s 777s until their PW4000 engines could be inspected. Several weeks ago, a Japan Airlines 777 made an emergency landing after a similar engine malfunction. Japan’s transport ministry ordered Japan Airlines and ANA to ground all 777s with the PW4000 engines on Sunday, calling for inspections before the planes return to service.

The Stocks Impacted by the Engine Explosion

The timing of this incident comes at a bad time for the global airline industry, which has been punished by COVID-19. Aerospace company Boeing ($BA) recently saw its 737MAX return to service. The company’s flagship new plane was grounded for two years after faulty software resulted in two fatal crashes. In the aftermath of the 737MAX failure, the FAA was initially agnostic as to whether or not to ground the plane. Eventually, the FAA grounded the 737MAX over concerns about its airworthiness. However, the FAA’s decision to do so lagged other prominent regulators in Asia and Europe.

On Monday morning, shares of Boeing ($BA) traded down approximately 2% in trading. Meanwhile, Raytheon Technologies ($RTX), which counts Pratt & Whitney among its subsidiary companies, traded down nearly 2%. The broader airline industry traded up on the day, bucking the rest of the market.

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Noah Weidner

Noah Weidner is a restless self-starter with a vehement interest in all things that make the world go around: culture, politics, economics and all the people in between. He writes the Bullish Rippers series and covers other interesting trends and happenings at Bullish.

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